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Rising lake gives boaters a boost
Lanier has 22 ramps open for use
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Forsyth County News

It was a soggy week, but all the rain has helped the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers open many boat ramps on Lake Lanier that had been closed due to the low water level.

Chief Park Ranger Mark Williams said there are 22 boat ramps open, up from just three usable ramps in October.

The corps has been able to open “a few each week as (Lanier) has been coming up since January,” Williams said.

He said the corps will open a ramp when there is at least 3 feet of water at the end of the concrete.

“That’s about what it takes to launch most boats,” Williams said.

Heavy rain totals over the past few months have made a sizable difference in the water level just in time for warmer weather to start drawing people to the lake.

Friday, the lake level topped 1,061 feet, 10 feet below full pool of 1,071 feet above sea level. That's the highest the lake has reached since Sept. 7, 2007.

On Dec. 9, Lake Lanier was at just 1,051 feet, close to its all-time low level of 1,050.79.

Though the lake is moving in the right direction, the 22 open ramps are just a portion of the 85 on Lanier.

The corps has a long list of permitted events scheduled over the next month, including fishing tournaments and regattas.

Williams said the corps was able to begin issuing permits again for fishing tournaments in February. But the water level is still too low to begin allowing nighttime events, due to safety hazards that may not be visible in shallow water at night.

Williams said there is a flurry of activity on the fuller lake.

“It’s picked up quite a bit,” Williams said. “We’ve already had a couple of nice weekends where the ramps have been pretty busy.”

Campgrounds that were closed due to the low water level have also reopened. Bald Ridge and Old Federal are currently open for use, and Duckett Mill, Bolding Mill and Sawnee will open at the end of April.

Greater Hall Chamber of Commerce President Kit Dunlap said she hopes the higher water level will attract more tourism and events, like this weekend’s John Hunter Regatta at the Olympic venue.

“It’ll not only help that venue, but all the marinas and all the boat sales and everything else around Lake Lanier,” Dunlap said.

State climatologist David Stooksbury said Friday that only the basins around Lake Lanier and Lake Hartwell are still stuck in drought after several days of heavy rain dumped inches of rain on Georgia.

Stream flows and soil moisture levels across much of Georgia are well above normal.

About the only sore spots remaining are the basins of the two lakes, both major water sources for north Georgia.

Both basins remain mired in moderate drought conditions, a far cry from the exceptional drought conditions that gripped parts of the state in late 2007.

Those conditions forced Georgia officials to call for sweeping water restrictions, which remain in place.